A Special Town Meeting in Hingham will decide whether to authorize spending $5.5 million to buy 3.1 acres on Route 3A as the site for a proposed police headquarters and satellite fire station.
The meeting is scheduled for Nov. 21, at noon, outside on the Hingham High School football field.
Selectmen had voted on Oct. 13 to ask Town Meeting for permission both to buy the property and move ahead with the design, but decided at their Oct. 20 meeting to slow the process and just ask for the property acquisition.
“The preliminary design was coming in in a way that I think the board felt hadn’t been fully vetted because we were trying to get it done by the [purchase and sale] deadline,” Town Administrator Thomas Mayo said.
He said the town has until Nov. 30 to buy the property, which abuts the Hingham Shipyard.
The initial design by Kaestle Boos Associates called for an approximately 50,000-square-foot, three-story building and parking garage estimated to cost $39.6 million. The design provided about three times as much space as the existing police headquarters and North Fire Station that the new building would replace.
Opposition to the project surfaced among parents of school-age children, who criticized spending so much money on a new public safety building during the pandemic instead of investing more in the schools.
“I think it is outrageous that this project is even being considered,” said Susan Kiernan O’Horo, a physician with three teenage children in the Hingham public schools. “It just speaks volumes about what our values are to [consider building] something that is so incredibly unnecessary at this time when the schools are under such stress.”
Town Meeting voted in June 2020 to spend $250,000 for a feasibility study and conceptual design of the project, which at that time was projected to cost $22 million.
The town hired Kaestle Boos Architects to do the work, and Mayo said between $30,000 and $40,000 is left in the contract “to refine” the conceptual design.
He said he anticipated that the annual Spring Town Meeting of 2021 would be asked to vote on moving forward with a new design.
The Hingham Police Department currently operates in about 10,000 square feet in Hingham Town Hall, space that officials say the department has outgrown. The smaller North Fire Station on North Street also is overcrowded, as well as dilapidated and outmoded, officials say.
Mayo said that both the police headquarters and fire station would benefit from moving to new, more modern facilities, and moving the police out of Town Hall would give room for the senior center to expand there.
Mayo said the regional dispatch center would remain in Town Hall. Fire headquarters would stay on Main Street, and the satellite South Fire Station also would remain open, he said.
Johanna Seltz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.